Authors: Lisa Page
Mail Order Romance
Copyright © 2014 Lisa Page.
All Rights Reserved.
Mail Order Romance Bundle #1 is a two book collection containing these books:
Mail Order Mistake
A Pretty Bride
Mail Order Mistake
Jesse Collins loved life as a farmer and living off the land. Farming was in his blood and he wanted to build his farm into a legacy to pass down to future generations. The only thing was missing in order for that dream to become a reality was a wife. Jesse knew it would be impossible to find a wife in the tiny, isolated farm town of Oak Grove, Nebraska, so he orders a mail order bride through an agency.
When the day that he'd been waiting for finally arrives and he goes to the depot to meet his bride, Jesse is shocked to find there's been a big mistake. The bride he'd ordered, the young and beautiful Miss Laura Kate Whitley, is not there. Instead, the woman who got off the train in her place was Enid Ralphy. Enid's nothing like Laura Kate; she's not young and she's most definitely not beautiful with her protruding jaw and humped back.
Until he can get the mistake sorted out, Jesse's stuck with Enid. But as he gets to know her, he finds out that there's more to Enid than meets the eye and that, sometimes, a mistake can be the best thing to happen to you.
A Pretty Bride
Josie Birch hated being pretty. Though most folks would consider it a blessing, to Josie it was a curse. It had only brought her pain, from jealous girls who shunned her to boys whose stares and whistles made her uncomfortable. Life at home was even worse with a stepfather who makes her life a nightmare.
Out of desperation, she contacts a mail order bride agency to find a husband. She starts writing to Sam Dawson, a rancher from Texas and through letters, they fall in love with each other and Josie makes plans to marry him and move to Texas.
Just when she thinks things are looking up, she arrives in Texas to find a new nightmare waiting for her in Sam's brother, Luke, who is the one thing standing in the way of her happiness. Sam is forced with a hard decision between his brother and his new bride.
Mail Order Mistake
~Oak Grove, Nebraska 1875
Jesse Collins sat on the buckboard of his wagon, nervously watching the empty railroad tracks as the afternoon sun was beginning its descent behind him. He had positioned himself perfectly behind the tiny station that served Oak Grove, with a perfect view of the station platform where the passengers would be getting off the evening train, but where he wouldn't be seen by them.
It was a beautiful day, one of those perfect warm weather days that was sunny but not too hot, with a cool breeze blowing up over the fertile Nebraska land. Normally, the Oak Grove depot sat mostly quiet with only a handful of passengers passing through each week. But Jesse's thoughts centered on one particular passenger to be arriving that day; that passenger was Miss Laura Kate Whitley.
Laura Kate Whitley was a blonde-haired, green-eyed, eighteen year old beauty who was heading to Oak Grove on a long train ride from Providence, Rhode Island for one very important purpose. At least, he
she was a blonde-haired, green-eyed eighteen year old. That was what she told him in her letter. It was possible that she had lied about her appearance. She could have been a bald-headed forty-five year old for all he knew. Jesse hoped that was not the case, though, because Laura Kate was going to become Jesse's wife and he did not want to be married to a liar. Or a bald-headed forty-five year old woman.
Jesse had only known Laura through one letter that she'd written to him, he'd never actually met her in person and though he knew he was doing the right thing, something about the fact that the woman he was to marry and spend the rest of his life with being a stranger to him just wasn't sitting right. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
Never did he think it would come to this, finding a bride in this odd manner. But what other options did he have? Sometimes when your hand is forced, you have to play the cards you're dealt and make choices that you never thought you would. It was a similar situation that made him come out to Nebraska in the first place, staking his homestead in Oak Grove. Farming was in Jesse's blood. It was all he ever wanted to do since before he could remember.
Jesse Collins was the second son born to Isaac and Eliza Collins, born four and a half years after his brother, Thomas. He was born in the same Pennsylvania farmhouse that generations of his family before him had been born in. When he was just two years old, his dear mother passed away after a bout of pneumonia, leaving a heartbroken Isaac Collins to raise the two young boys on his own. Or at least, for the most part on his own. Jesse's Aunt Clara came to live with them for a spell until Jesse was eight years old. Then she left to start her own family and truth be told, that was harder on Jesse than losing his own mother. He'd been too young to remember his own mother, but kind and loving Aunt Clara became a second mother to him and loved him as if he were her own. Jesse was devastated at her leaving. Unlike his mother, however, Aunt Clara was still able to visit frequently, which soothed the blow somewhat, though it never was the same again and Jesse always felt slightly betrayed by the whole ordeal.
After Clara left, the Collins' had a series of housekeepers that came to take care of the house, cook and clean for them. They were always pleasant enough, but none of them Jesse became close to. He wasn't around the house much, anyways, he'd prefer to be out working the fields with his father, or in the barn with the animals. Growing up at his father's side on their family farm, he had felt a connection to the land, that he was a part of it, and he looked forward to nothing more than to carry on the tradition that had been in the Collins family for generations.
But, unfortunately, as often happens in life, things didn't go as Jesse planned. Just as he was reaching adulthood, his father, the one great compass in his young life, became sick and died. It happened very quickly, just as it had happened to his mother. At the funeral he heard someone say that death comes like a thief in the night and that is exactly what had happened. Death had stolen both of his parents and there was nothing he could have done. The tragedy was a shock to him, but there was another shock, just as great, that yet awaited him.
At the reading of his father's will, it was discovered that Isaac had left the entire farm to his eldest son, Thomas. Jesse was stunned. He couldn't understand why is father wouldn't have left the farm to him, or at the very least, divided it equally between the two of them. That would have been the fair thing to do, and for as long as he knew his father, he had known him to be a fair and just man. It just didn't make any sense. Jesse was the one who loved the farm with every part of his being, it was his whole life, while Thomas made no pretense about the fact that he despised farming. He thought it was dirty and degrading to work so hard at something that you will never get rich at. He had set his sights on learning a trade or becoming a businessman. In fact, at the time of their father's death, Thomas had already left the farm and was living in town.
As if it couldn't get any worse for Jesse, his brother informed him that he had decided to sell the farm. He had decided that with the proceeds of the farm, he could go into an even more lucrative field of law and the money would be able to pay for his schooling and setting up his own practice.
Everything that Jesse had loved in his life had been taken away from him; his mother, Aunt Clara, his father, and now his home, the only home he'd known for his whole life. Jesse begged and pleaded with his brother not to sell it, he shed tears with no shame but his brother wouldn't budge.
“Jesse,” Thomas had said to him, “I don't think you're looking at this right. Selling this place can be the best thing to happen to you, you just don't realize it yet. Brother, you're not thinking with your head, you're thinking with your heart.”
“And you, brother, are acting as though you have no heart,” Jesse had answered back to him.
No matter how much he tried to convince Thomas to keep the place, his pleas fell on deaf ears. In the end, everything went-the land, the house, the barn, the equipment, the animals...it was more than Jesse could bear.
Thomas then had the audacity to try to give Jesse a share of the profits.
“I know you're not happy with what I did, but I'm your older brother and it's my job to look out for you, now that our Ma and Pa are both gone. You know that I'll always give you a roof over your head and food to eat and once you're done with school, I'll help you find a trade or business that suits you and I will make sure you find a successful path in life. Someday you will be grateful for what I've done for you.”
Jesse couldn't believe his hears and Thomas' words made him sick to his stomach. He knew the path that he'd wanted to take in life, but Thomas had taken that away from him and crushed his dreams. The last thing he wanted to do was live with him, so he moved in with Aunt Clara and worked with her husband, John, on their farm. John and Clara were kind to him and he loved being on a farm again, but it wasn't the same, not being on his own land, and he made a decision that if he couldn't get his old farm back, he would start his own farm and build his own legacy from scratch. The only way to do that without taking money from Thomas was to take advantage of the Homestead Act and farm free land from the government for five years until it became his. As soon as he turned 21, that's exactly what he did and how he ended up west, in Oak Grove, Nebraska. It wasn't the path he'd expected to take, but he was doing what he could to make his dreams come true.
And that's exactly why he ended up deciding to order a bride that he'd never met. What good is working his own farm and building a new legacy to pass down to future generations if there were no future generations to pass it down to? He wanted children of his own; perhaps some sons who would work by his side with pride as he had with his father. But in order to have sons of his own, he first needed a wife and several things made that a difficult task to achieve, not the least of which was that out in this newly formed town on the prairie, the men far outnumbered the women, and the majority of women that were there were already married. Unless you counted the saloon girls, that is, but they weren't the type he wanted to be the mother of his children.
Besides the issue of women being scarce, there was also the fact that he was quite introverted. He preferred spending time with animals to people and he had little experience with women. Add to that the fact that he worked from sunup to sundown seven days a week, he was too exhausted to court anyone. Ordering a bride by mail solved all of the difficulties he faced in finding a wife.
But even still, he was worried about whether or not he was making the right choice. What if he couldn't be a good husband to her? Taking care of animals came naturally to him but taking care of a woman, well, that was something that Jesse knew nothing about. He was so young when his mother died that he hadn't had the privilege of watching a loving marriage in action. The few years he spent with his John and Clara didn't exactly enlighten him, either. The two seemed to love each other with a mutual affection, but between him running the farm and her running the house and taking care of their six children, they rarely had moments together. Or at least that Jesse was witness to.
His mind was busy, filled with thoughts of how he came to find himself at this place on his journey in life, but his racing thoughts didn't make the time go by any faster. He felt like he'd been waiting at the station for an eternity, as if time had come to a complete stop. He pulled out his pocket watch for another glance. Turned out time hadn't stopped, but was just moving painfully slow. It had been only six minutes since the last time he checked it. He took off his hat and wiped his perspiring forehead with the back of his hand. Despite the cool breeze, he was perspiring as if it were a hundred degree day in August.
Then he heard it, faint at first. The chugging and rattling of the train as it moved along the tracks, slowly making its way towards the depot. Jesse didn't know if it was always this slow or if it was just because he'd been waiting for so long, but the closer it got, the faster his heart started beating. This was it, this was Laura Kate's train.
As it screeched into the station, he started feeling a lump in his throat. He wasn't sure of how he would go through with it and had the sudden urge to turn his wagon around and head straight home. He quickly pushed that thought out of head, though, as he imagined the poor young girl, stranded at this little depot so far from home with nobody to get her. It's not a way he'd want to treat any woman, let alone one who had agreed to marry him. Instead, he chose to push aside his fears and keep his composure. He knew he could do this.
It seemed like the train had been stopped for a long time when finally out came a porter who turned to help a passenger out of the train. Jesse held his breath in anticipation. As soon as he saw the passenger, though, Jesse let his breath go as he realized it wasn't his Laura Kate. It was a hunched over elderly woman that the porter was helping down. Of all the days for their to be more than one passenger arriving in Oak Grove, he thought to himself.
Jesse held his breath again as he waited for the next passenger to step down onto the platform but none came. The porter pulled out a large valise to leave with the woman he'd helped down and then got back on the train.
As the train pulled out of the station, Jesse squinted in confusion. Nobody else got off the train. Laura Kate wasn't there. Something must have happened to her; maybe she was delayed for some reason and couldn't get word to him, or maybe he had been mistaken about the time and date of her arrival.
He took out an envelope he had in his pocket and opened it up to check the letter again. No, he was here at the right time, he confirmed as he reread the information. Maybe she changed her mind...
Then he watched as the elderly lady looked around her. It occurred to him that besides himself and old Henry Mills, the depot agent who was probably drunk and passed out inside the little depot, there was nobody there. Nobody to pick up this mother or grandmother who came for a visit or maybe to live with a son or daughter who had moved out to Nebraska.
The woman walked around the building, out of his sight, he presumed to talk to Henry and ask if her kin had been there to pick her up. He hoped Henry was not only awake, but not his usual drunk and ornery self.
Then another thought occurred to him. Maybe this was a relative of Laura Kate's, who had come in her place, perhaps her mother or an aunt, who, for whatever reason, had used Laura's ticket to come in her place. Could it be that she'd been delayed for some reason and sent someone ahead of her?
As his thoughts spun through his head, he saw the woman come back around the building and sit down on a bench that was up against the depot. She looked around and then it happened...he was spotted. Her face, though covered by a bonnet, was clearly focused right in his direction. She cocked her head, as if trying to get a better look at him and Jesse knew it was time to approach her and find out exactly what was going on.
Stepping down from the wagon, he stopped for a minute to stroke his horse, Moses, more to calm himself than the animal. Moses liked the feel of his owner's touch and whinnied softly. “Thataboy, Mose, wish me luck old friend,” Jesse whispered to him before heading off for the depot where the woman was still seated . It was a bit of a walk since he had positioned the wagon so far away as to not be seen (even though that plan didn't work out as well as he'd hoped).
When he finally climbed the stairs to the station platform, he was startled to see that he'd been mistaken. He'd assumed the woman was elderly because of her posture and slow gait, but she wasn't elderly at all, as he could see by her face as she looked up at him, smiling. He could see auburn hair peeking out from her brown calico bonnet and she had a young face, smooth with no wrinkles. Though it was a young face, it most definitely wasn't a pretty face. With sharp cheekbones and a protruding jaw, the face was somewhat deformed.